Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Craig v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 15, 2017

BEULAH L. CRAIG, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          M. David Weisman, Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Beulah L. Craig brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's decision denying her application for supplemental security income under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         Background

         Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income on May 2, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of April 1, 2004. (R. 100, 169.) The application was initially denied on July 28, 2011, and again after reconsideration on May 17, 2012. (R. 100-01.) Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on July 16, 2012. (R. 19.) The hearing was held on March 1, 2013.[1] (Id.)

         On April 17, 2013, the ALJ denied plaintiff's application. (R. 27.) At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her application date of May 2, 2011. (R. 21.) At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the severe impairments of obesity, gout, hypertension, lumbar degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis of the hips, mild left knee osteoarthritis, and early-mild osteoarthritis of the left foot. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment. (R. 22.) At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except that claimant can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs. The claimant can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and never work around hazards, such as unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery. The claimant can perform no work in temperature extremes, and can never use the bilateral lower extremities for the operation of foot controls.

(Id.) At step five, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a health insurance agent and telephone solicitor because the work does not require performance of activities precluded by her RFC. (R. 27.) The ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act at any time from the date her application was filed on May 2, 2011. (Id.)

         The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision on September 21, 2013 (R. 1-7), leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner, reviewable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Discussion

         The Court reviews the ALJ's factual determinations deferentially, affirming them if they are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Jones v. Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2010); see Campbell v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 299, 306 (7th Cir. 2010) (“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”) (quotation omitted). “A decision denying benefits need not discuss every piece of evidence, but if it lacks an adequate discussion of the issues, it will be remanded.” Campbell, 627 F.3d at 306. The ALJ must build an “accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to the conclusions” so that the reviewing court may assess the validity of the findings and afford meaningful review. Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1002 (7th Cir. 2004).

         The Social Security Act defines disability as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The regulations prescribe a five-part, sequential test for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The Commissioner must consider: (1) whether the claimant has performed any substantial gainful activity during the period for which she claims disability; (2) if not, whether she has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3) if so, whether her impairment meets or equals any impairment listed in the regulations; (4) if not, whether she retains the residual functional capacity to perform her past relevant work; and (5) if not, whether she is able to perform any other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Id.; Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 885 (7th Cir. 2001). The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c)(2). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that the claimant is capable of performing work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Id.

         At step two, the ALJ found that, in addition to her severe impairments (“obesity, gout, hypertension, lumbar degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis of the hips, mild left knee osteoarthritis and early-mild osteoarthritis of the left foot”), plaintiff had the nonsevere impairments of, among others, left foot hammertoe, hallux limitus, and plantar fasciitis.[2] (R. 21.)

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ did not consider whether her foot impairments combined with her severe impairments impacted her ability to work, as the regulations require. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.923 (stating that ALJs must consider the combined effect of all impairments, even those that are not severe). The Court disagrees. The ALJ said that plaintiff's medical records showed that her foot problems “[were] resolving.” (R. 21.) Thus, the ALJ concluded, plaintiff's foot problems, “considered singly [or] in combination with [her] severe impairments, ” did not impose limitations beyond those set forth in her RFC. (Id.)

         Next, plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to consider the effects of plaintiff's obesity in making the step four RFC determination. See SSR 02-1p, 2002 WL 34686281, at *1 (Sept. 12, 2000) (instructing ALJs “to consider the effects of obesity not only under the listings but also when assessing a claim at other steps of the sequential evaluation process, including when assessing an individual's residual functional capacity”). Though plaintiff has the burden of providing evidence of her obesity's impact on her RFC, see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3), she failed to do so. Rather, she simply asserts that “it stands to reason, ” given her “arthritic condition [and] . . . extreme obesity . . ., that [she] would not be able to sit or stand for six hours a day to perform her past relevant work . . . .” (Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Reverse Comm'r's Decision at 9.) In other words, plaintiff argues that the ALJ should have assumed that plaintiff's obesity aggravated her other impairments. The regulation, however, expressly prohibits ALJs from making such assumptions: “[W]e will not make assumptions about the severity or functional effects of obesity combined with other impairments. Obesity in combination with another impairment may or may not ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.